We find ourselves working in some interesting places these days. Today, my office is the home of my great-grandparents in a small Minnesota town. It’s a simple house, and full of reminders of what life and education would have looked like nearly a century ago: a one room schoolhouse, with one teacher but students of varying ages, in the midst of the Great Depression. I can’t help but think of how it parallels some of the challenges educators face today. Not in how or what we teach, but in how outside forces must have impacted mental health and sense of well-being for students and staff. Now, of course, it is a pandemic. And there are certain skills teachers need during COVID-19 to help support productivity and learning.
Remembering where we have come from and the challenges we’ve overcome before can offer an inspiring perspective to help us persevere through current trials. To maintain our stamina and mental well-being, it’s critical to approach this school year with realism and caution, but not at the detriment of optimism. Negativity breeds itself. So does positivity.
I have no doubt that schools and teachers will be successful in educating students. A related skill that teachers possess and will need in increasing measures this school year is the ability to accept (in ourselves and in co-workers) that many things will not go as planned. Flexibility applies to how we do our jobs, but also how we approach others.
We are professionals with a very demanding task ahead. The pandemic has muddied the water between personal and professional, and it’s unrealistic to assume that the personal stress that is ubiquitous to us all will not have an impact on the work environment. On top of the added responsibility of educating in 2020, our coping skills are already being stretched.